Author: Attorney Courtney Van Winkle
Home is where the heart is. Your home is also where you keep many of your most precious belongings. Your home may well be your biggest investment. How do you best protect your home and your personal property from the risk of an unexpected event? How do you keep from being personally ruined if something bad happens? The purchase of homeowners insurance will help you protect the roof over your head and your belongings inside. If you have a mortgage on your home, as most of us do, your lender will require you to have homeowners insurance. Have you personally reviewed your policy? Do you know what your policy covers and more importantly what it does not cover? Do you have enough coverage to give you the peace of mind you need to sleep like a baby in the house that means so much to you and your family?
Each homeowners policy offers different protections so first you must read your policy carefully. You may be surprised at what you find. Is that monster shed you spent all summer sweltering in the heat to build all by yourself covered? What about Sparky's fancy doghouse? How about the flood damage to your basement from a recent hurricane? The theft of your grandmother's $3,000 broach? Your $500 watch? How about when the sheriff posts a lawsuit on your front door from when Sparky bit the neighbor's kid at a recent sleepover? Does your homeowners insurance cover dog bite cases?
Most standard policies provide coverage for the following:
STRUCTURE OF YOUR HOME. This covers damage to your house and any permanent structures on your property caused by one of the disasters or "named perils" in your policy such as fire and theft up to the amount of the policy. Floods and earthquakes are typically not covered so be sure to add this coverage if you live in an area typically affected by these disasters. You will want to purchase enough insurance to rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed. Check your policy to make sure you have a replacement policy which pays to replace your home, not an actual cash value policy which only pays to rebuild your home minus depreciation. Most standard policies cover structures that are not attached to your home such as garages and sheds but usually only up to 10% of the amount of insurance on your home. If your shed or dog house are extra fancy you may need to purchase some extra insurance.
PERSONAL BELONGINGS. This covers damage to your personal property by those "named perils" in the policy. Again, avoid actual cash value and insist on replacement value. Some policies offer coverage up to a percentage of the amount you have on your home. Inventory your belongings to make sure this is enough coverage. Itemize and video your belongings. Although personal items like jewelry are typically covered, they are usually only covered up to a limited amount such as $1,000. So while your $500 watch is probably covered, you will need to take out a personal property rider for your grandmother's $3,000 broach.
LIABILITY COVERAGE. This covers you for bodily injury or property damage that you, your family, and even your pets may cause. Most policies will cover judgments from lawsuits up to a certain amount as well as the cost of a lawyer. You should take out the maximum liability coverage your policy allows and consider the additional purchase of an umbrella policy. This coverage will protect you if Sparky bites a guest but be sure to let your company know you have a dog at the time you purchase the policy.
ADDITIONAL LIVING EXPENSES. This covers your expenses for food, housing, and other expenses in the event your damaged home is uninhabitable for a period of time. This coverage is typically limited to a percentage of the value of your home. Check your policy. You want to be covered for approximately 2 years of living expenses.
MEDICAL PAYMENTS. This covers medical bills up to a certain amount for people injured on your property regardless of who is at fault. This coverage typically does not apply to you and your family.
The worst time to realize you don't have enough coverage is after a disaster. Don't wait! Review your policy now to ensure you and your family have the coverage you need.
About the Author: Courtney Van Winkle is a Richmond car accident attorney with almost 20 years of experience. As a partner with the personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen, concentrates her practice on accidents involving tractor trailers, brain injury and wrongful death claims.